Dan Johnson’s requests for subpoenas to compel testimony of Mayor Fischer and journalist are denied

Council President David Yates, D-25 | Photo by Joe Sonka

Council President David Yates, now serving as the presiding officer of the Metro Council Court in the removal trial of Councilman Dan Johnson, issued an order just after midnight on Friday approving subpoenas to compel the testimony of 14 witnesses in the case. However, Yates denied the request of Johnson’s attorney to issue subpoenas on five of their requested witnesses, including Mayor Greg Fischer and the Courier-Journal reporter Phillip Bailey.

Thomas McAdam, the attorney representing Johnson, had requested subpoenas to compel not only the testimony of 19 witnesses, but for most of these witness to also produce any material relevant to the charges against Johnson. Yates ruled that 14 of these witnesses could be served subpoenas by McAdam compelling them to testify, as they were either parties to this matter, have already provided affidavits in the case, or have been identified in original complaint and exhibits tendered by the Charging Committee of five council members prosecuting Johnson. These 14 witnesses included the three witnesses requested by Deborah Kent, the attorney for the Charging Committee.

However, Yates ruled that McAdam would not be allowed to subpoena and compel the testimony of five witnesses, nor would he be allowed to compel any of the 14 witnesses to bring any material they had related to the case, which had been requested in broad terms by McAdam.

Thomas McAdam, the attorney of Councilman Dan Johnson | Photo by Joe Sonka

McAdam has argued that Bailey has no right as a journalist to protect the sources from his articles on allegations of sexual harassment against Johnson and suggested that he could be held in contempt and thrown in jail if he refused to testify. But in denying McAdam’s request for a subpoena of Bailey, Yates ruled that the journalist is “a protected person within the ambit of KRS 421.100 and he cannot be compelled to testify as to his sources of information.”

Yates added that while McAdam had cited the possibility of Bailey having “exculpatory information” as a reason for compelling his testimony and his records, “it does not appear that Respondent has any good faith belief that such material exists and is merely seeking to examine this reporter as part of a fishing exhibition.”

Yates also denied McAdam’s request for a subpoena of the mayor, ruling that Fischer’s mere attendance at the event in which Johnson is alleged to have intentionally grabbed the butt of Councilwoman Jessica Green “does not establish that the mayor has relevant testimony regarding the allegations contained in the complaint.”

McAdam has also requested the testimony and records of council members Bill Hollander and Pat Mulvihill to share details of confidential conversations with Green, but Yates denied those subpoena requests because the substance of those conversations was not stated and there was no showing that questioning Councilwoman Green herself — who Yates did allow a subpoena for — would not satisfy McAdam’s need.

Yates also denied McAdam’s request to subpoena “Jane Doe,” the unnamed staffer of Greater Louisville Inc. who Johnson is alleged to have harassed at an event in Austin, Texas, last year, leading to GLI banning him from all of their future events. Yates ruled that while the court cannot issue a subpoena “in the name of an unknown,” he would consider issuing this subpoena if her name is revealed in the testimony of other GLI employees who will receive subpoenas, as the charging complaint “has made this person’s testimony germane to this determination.”

For the 14 witnessed who will be compelled to testify with a subpoena, Yates denied McAdams broad request to compel them to bring forth any material that is relevant to the case, writing that McAdam’s motion “appears to merely issue a Subpoena Duces Tecum upon these witnesses as an afterthought.”

The 14 witnesses that can be compelled to testify include:

  • Council members Rick Blackwell and¬†Robin Engle, both members of the Charging Committee seeking the removal of Johnson.
  • Councilwoman Jessica Green, a Charging Committee member who alleged that Johnson intentionally grabbed her butt at a city event this summer.
  • Councilwoman Angela Leet, a Charging Committee member, and her legislative aide Erin Hinson, who alleged that Johnson exposed his buttocks to her in the council’s parking lot last year.
  • GLI CEO Kent Oyler and GLI chief operating officer Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, who will presumably testify about the alleged incident with “Jane Doe” at the GLI event in Austin last year.
  • Former Councilman David Tandy, who was requested as a witness by both McAdam and Kent.
  • Nicole George, who is running for the Metro Council District 21 seat that is currently occupied by Johnson.
  • Chris Doolin, a Metro Public Works employee who allegedly witnessed the incident between Johnson and Green.
  • Kling Center executive director Joan Stewart and board president Steve Gahafer, who alleged that Johnson’s former legislative aide Bryan Mathews used racial slurs while working at the center, before being employed by Johnson.
  • Elizabeth Hoffman, a legislative aide who is alleged to have taken photographs of the event where the alleged incident between Johnson and Green occurred.
  • Council President David Yates, the presiding officer of the Council Court.

The first day of the Council Court trial is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Nov. 1, which is next Wednesday. Yates ruled this week that 14 votes from the 20-member Council Court would be needed to remove Johnson, who is accused in the Charging Committee’s complaint of sexual harassment and a history of inappropriate behavior in his official capacities as a member of Metro Council.